While the Pittsburgh Steelers may have gained some tangible evidence of improvement, improving their win total by three games and hosting a playoff game as a division champion for the first time in four seasons, there is no doubt that the team is far from a finished product.
No team, of course, is a finished product in the offseason. Every team loses players to free agency and retirement, and replaces them through the same free agency process, as well as the draft.
With all of the change that occurs during the offseason, it’s often difficult to predict how a particular team might fare. They may wind up holding the Lombardi trophy or the first overall draft pick when all is said and done.
In order to gain a better feel for not only the issues facing the team this year, but how those issues might play out, it’s useful to take the devil’s advocate approach. This is the pessimistic side of the coin.
Question: Should the Steelers be open to drafting an offensive tackle in the first round?
The Pittsburgh Steelers have drafted four tackles over the past five drafts. Two can be said to have worked out, while one is no longer with the team. Mike Adams isn’t likely to see a second contract in Pittsburgh as he enters the final season of his rookie contract.
Also in the final year of his rookie contract is Kelvin Beachum, a former seventh-round draft pick who has started 27 games at left tackle over the course of the previous two regular seasons, including all 16 games in 2014. The Steelers would naturally like to work out an extension with Beachum, as they did with Marcus Gilbert a year ago, who has made 46 starts at right tackle.
The fact is that the Steelers will need depth at the tackle position, and they will need to acquire it in some form or fashion. Realistically, that will not come from somebody signed to a futures contract. Adams will serve as the swing tackle again this season, but even that leaves the team precariously thin—I shudder to think of Maurkice Pouncey warming up at tackle again.
That the Steelers need to add depth along the bookends of the offensive line is one thing, but is the value going to be there, in terms of how the roster, the cap, and the draft all unfold, to seriously consider adding a tackle in the first round, when you ostensibly already have two starters, both of whom will likely be on long-term contracts by the time the season starts?
It can be a tough, but not impossible sell. In terms of adding a first-round talent, offensive line in general is not high on the priority list. But the Steelers are rarely in position to draft a top tackle, so that has to be considered.
Ultimately, however, the way the draft tends to fall, it’s a risky proposition assuming that one of the top tackles will fall to 22. There will be options at other positions, probably options higher up the food chain at those given positions, than what might be available at tackle. While the Steelers should be open to the idea of drafting a tackle in the first round, it’s easy to the draft not sorting out that way realistically to make it a pragmatic option.